It is finally time! Golf’s second major is upon us as the best golfers in the world head to Oakmont Country Club for the United States Open. To help with the lineup building process, I’ve created a list of golfers I love, like and hate this week.
Golfers I Love
Jason Day ($12,100) – It should come as no surprise that the world number one has found his way into the love section of this article. His talent speaks for itself, but it’s his putting in the third round of The PLAYERS Championship that really interests me. On what many PGA professionals called the fastest greens they’ve ever seen, Jason Day gained 1.5 strokes putting and pulled away from the field in an incredible way. In a famous quote Sam Snead once said “he tried to mark his ball on one of Oakmont’s greens but the coin slid off.” We can expect similarly difficult greens this week at Oakmont, and having seen Jason Day pull away in difficult conditions leaves me wanting to roster him in a big way.
Dustin Johnson ($11,000) – Short of the big three, Dustin Johnson is the hottest golfer on Tour without question. Johnson has four top ten finishes in six events and is on track for another at the ongoing St. Jude Classic. With Dustin Johnson’s game coming into form I expect him to compete in the second major of the year. My biggest concern with Dustin is his ownership is going to be extremely high and could breach the 30% mark this week.
Bubba Watson ($9,500) – In the most recent U.S. Open hosted by Oakmont in 2007 Bubba Watson finished fifth place and was definitely in contention. At only $9,500, Bubba Watson has serious winning potential but doesn’t even need to win to pay off his price. On a course where there is no water or trees Bubba should be able to drive the ball a mile without fear. While the rough will definitely be punishing without question, I like the idea that Bubba will be having shorter clubs into the green whether in the rough or not as an advantage on a course this difficult. Bubba’s elite approach game and creativity should suit him well here.
“He definitely has the ability to win this tournament…”
Brooks Koepka ($8,100) – Koepka stands out as one of the most skilled golfers in his price range, and he definitely has the ability to win this tournament. He is ranked in the top fifty in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Tee-to-Green, Putting and Total and is one of the most well rounded players in the field which makes him a great pick this week.
Russel Knox ($7,600) – Russel Knox fits the mold for this course like a golf glove. His driving accuracy is bested by only two players in the field this week, and his scrambling and green in regulation percentage are also well above average. On a course where making par means you’re gaining strokes on the field, the consistent nature of Knox’s game should serve him well. If he finds a way to make some putts we could see Russel Knox in contention come Sunday.
Golfers I Like
Jordan Spieth ($11,900) – What’s not to love about Jordan Spieth when it comes to majors? He clearly has a second gear when it comes to playing on the big stage, and that in my mind is enough to consider rostering Jordan Spieth this week. We are getting a discount at under $12k this week which has only happened twice all year, and he certainly has winning upside. The main reason Spieth didn’t make my love section is because his Green in Regulation Percentage is far and away the worst in his price range, hitting only 64.7% of greens. Typically his short game is enough to make up for this deficiency, but on a course like Oakmont, I’m not sure he’ll be afforded the luxury of going up and down to save par on a regular basis.
Justin Rose ($10,500) – Justin Rose makes a really interesting GPP play coming off of a back injury that has kept him sidelined for a month following The PLAYERS Championship. While we don’t know a ton about his injury, he did show up to the BMW Championship to spectate, so I don’t believe it’s serious enough to warrant too much concern. I expect if Rose starts, he will be capable of finishing all four rounds, and his injury should keep him very low owned. Justin Rose boasts a top ten finish in the 2007 rendition of the U.S. Open at Oakmont, and his game should suit this course well. Tread lightly with Rose though as we still don’t know if he will come out with his his A-game after a long break.
Henrik Stenson ($9,100) – As one of the most consistent golfers on Tour, Henrik Stenson makes perfect sense on a course where the winner will almost certainly be over par for the week. His tee to green game is elite and he is supremely accurate off the tee with his well-known hit 3-wood only approach to tee shots. While we’ve seen him miss his two most recent cuts on Tour for the first time in several years, he did finish fourth at the Nordea Masters in his home country of Sweden, so his form is not as bad as it may seem from the surface.
Matt Kuchar ($8,500) – Matt Kuchar would be in the love section of my article if it weren’t for his popularity with what I expect to be nearly 30% ownership in the larger field GPPs. His price is exceptionally low for somebody who is coming off five top tens in six starts with three top fives in that same span, and his game will suit this course very well. My only advice on how to handle Kuchar this week is to play him in a high percentage of lineups if you are going to roster him. It doesn’t do much good to have Kuchar in 20% of your lineups knowing how highly owned he will be.
“I expect putting to be a challenge for all, leveling the playing field a bit”
Bill Haas ($6,900) – Bill Haas has a really solid statistical projection in my model, and his game really checks out for this course. He makes a lot of greens in regulation, and his tee-to-green game is solid. His putting leaves me a bit concerned, but at Oakmont there will be a litany of three putts by even the world’s most elite putters, so I expect putting to be a challenge for all, leveling the playing field a bit. We’ve seen Bill Haas play well on big stages with a top twenty-five at The Master’s this year and a top ten at the WGC Dell Match play. Surprisingly Haas has a top twenty-five in nearly half of the events he’s started this year, and at $6,900, that is plenty of upside for me.
Golfers I Hate
Rory McIlroy ($12,000) – This one pains me because clearly Rory has the potential to win as one golf’s most elite players. Rory is ranked outside the top fifty in approaches in all distance ranges except 175-225 yards, which means his accuracy has not been great which is a big concern, and on a course with over 200 bunkers, a 50% sand save percentage puts Rory at a huge disadvantage when he finds one of the courses many punishing bunkers. With Rory’s recent propensity to put up rounds above par even on easier courses, I don’t think there will be enough birdies out there on Oakmont for Rory to storm back as he’s done in the past.
“…Rickie has too much downside in my book”
Rickie Fowler ($10,700) – Fowler’s proximity stats are even worse than McIlroy’s, which is one of the reasons I dislike Rickie on a course where accuracy is going to be key. We’ve also seen Rickie struggle recently having missed cuts at three of his last five events including back-to-back missed cuts in his last two starts. If I’m going to be paying up in this high salary range I’m going to be looking for a golfer to have elite upside, and Rickie has too much downside in my book.
Phil Mickelson ($9,300) – It pains me to say that Mickelson is the player that concerns me most out of all the players I’m writing up. In 2007 we saw Phil miss the cut in what was the prime of his career. Since then his game has slipped back, and he has been prone to making big mistakes in key spots and taking big numbers on the score card as a result. On a course as punishing as Oakmont, I don’t like Phil’s chances of staying out of trouble.
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,200) – Louis Oosthuizen has missed back-to-back cuts, and at his price range there are several options I like much better than Louis. Sandwiched by Kuchar, Reed, Grace and Koepka there just isn’t a case that I can make for rostering Louis outside of the fact that his ownership percentage will be low. Despite his accuracy off the tee, Oosthuizen’s game hasn’t been great recently, and I’ll be looking elsewhere when building lineups.
J.B. Holmes ($7,400) – J.B. Holmes is probably one of the more talented golfers in the $7k price range; however, it’s his driving accuracy that concerns me the most. Obviously Holmes could fit into the same category as Bubba off the tee and may end up with shorter irons into the green; however, the difference in my mind is that Bubba’s approach proximity is one of the best in the field where as Holmes boasts one of the worst. Holmes just doesn’t have the skill set to take advantage of the added distance on a course this difficult, and for that reason I’ll be avoiding him this week.
Do you have questions about golfers who aren’t in this article? Get more weekly analysis and answers to any of your questions by following me on Twitter @BradMessersmith